West, TX — A criminal probe was launched on Friday in the Texas fertilizer plant blast investigation. The massive explosion happened on April 17 and killed 14 people.
The criminal probe announcement came after almost a month of investigators treating the blast as an industrial accident. It also came the same day as a paramedic who helped residents evacuate was arrested on a charge of possessing a destructive device.
It is unclear if the charge is related to the explosion at West Fertilizer Co. In a statement on Friday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that it instructed the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a criminal probe into the Texas blast.
DPS Director Stephen McCraw explained, “This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered.
The statement did not detail any further reasons for launching a criminal investigation, though McLennan County Sheriff Parnell MacNamara added that residents “must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled — they deserve nothing less.”
Meanwhile, the paramedic’s arrest was transferred to federal court, where he appeared on Friday. The man, Bryce Reed, 31, had a high profile in the days after the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. He was arrested after a friend discovered he had explosives and notified the local sheriff.
According to court documents, Reed amassed components for a pipe bomb. The materials were not yet assembled into a working bomb. The US attorney’s office added of Reed’s arrest, “At this time, authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion.”
Reed gave interviews in the days after the Texas blast and also eulogized victim Cyrus Reed at a public memorial. The cause of the explosion, which killed 14, injured more than 200, and damaged or destroyed more than 75 homes and businesses, has not yet been discovered.
Are you surprised to hear the Texas fertilizer plant blast is the subject of a criminal probe?